'The humans are dying. In a way, it’s their own fault. They reached too far. Dug too deep. They tried to claim the furthest reaches of the world, and in doing so, they found the ether.
What is the ether? That’s a good question. '



4. The girl

I find the girl in a human colony. You humans seem to insist on living together, packed closely into your small spaces. I do not bother to wonder why. The minds of humans are not worth attempting to explain. They are vague and abstract. The beyond is a dimension of patterns, and humans are anything but patterned. And yet, they are not complex enough to confuse the enkai. And so they fall and die.

The girl is hidden from my sight by the dark masses of the human dwellings. Each is like its own little realm, secluded and distant. And somewhere within, there is the girl. I can feel her, but she is not visible.

The warmth strengthens, and she emerges from one of the buildings, guided by another human. He is obviously male, and much older than she is. There are two others as well- they are guiding her towards a post in the center of the open section you humans call a courtyard. I do not understand why- there is nothing courtlike about it. But it was your choice, not mine.

I quickly discover that the currents whose form I take do not like going down. So I return to the form of the winged creature, and swoop closer to see what’s happening.

    The girl is obviously frightened. Something is wrong, but clearly she is attempting to escape. Or perhaps she is bluffing- she hasn’t shifted forms yet. I cannot imagine why. Perhaps there is something she’s waiting for.

They unchain one of her arms. She tries to run, but they pull her back, locking her arms behind her, around the post. They pile material from the strange growths around her feet, and douse it with a horrid smelling liquid.

    One thing is clear- the girl cannot escape. She cannot shift. Perhaps she doesn’t know how. Then her eyes go to the sky, meeting mine, and she mouths one word. Help.

    She must have known I was coming. She must know I am here, and she needs my assistance.

    I leave the form of the winged creature, and take the form of a clear liquid that the currents were full of. I slip closer to her in this form, as they throw a patch of brightness onto the material. It bursts, and then begins to grow lighter.

    Whatever this lightness is, the girl is afraid of it. It grows up the liquid, towards her, and she lets out of a soft cry.

    My realization comes a little late, but perhaps this is a method of death. If that is so, then I cannot allow this girl to be killed.

    As this clear liquid, I slither along, darkening the brightness. I rise up the post, and sent a fragment of myself through the chains, unlocking them. They fall away, and she finally shifts into the same winged creature whose form I took, launching herself to the sky. I follow as the winged creature yet again.

    When we reach the sky, I shift to the form of the currents yet again. To my surprise, she does not do the same. She remains as a winged creature, and we fly together.

    Finally, we land, and she shifts back into human form. I land beside her as the winged creature, and study her carefully.

    She is young, especially for a human. Her face is what I’m sure many would call beautiful, but she bears a scar across her face. I wonder who has given her this scar, and why.

    Her eyes hold the intensity and power of one who can see beyond worlds- one who can comprehend the impossibility of reality without breaking down. Of course she can. She is a shifter. She sees many realities.

    At the moment, she is studying her legs. They are marked with dark lines, and she brushes her fingers over them, wincing.

    “Are you injured?” I ask. I assume that she knew I was coming. But her eyes widen, and she looks around.

    “Who said that?”

    “I did.”

    She turns to look at me, breathing hard. “A talking… bird.”

    “That is what you call this form? Yes. I suppose I am at this present moment. Is there a form you would prefer me to take?”

    She hesitates. “What… what are you?”

    “You may call the The Dreamer,” I reply. “I am a shifter, like you. I am here to teach you.”

    “Teach me… what? Where did you come from?”
    “I come from the beyond. I am here to teach you how to defend your world from the enkai- the monsters that terrorize and destroy your world.”

    “You’re here to teach me how to fight?” She didn’t believe me. It was obvious. Sometimes you humans are frustratingly stubborn. “Isn’t the beyond where these monsters came from in the first place?”

    “Yes, but not all creatures of the beyond are here to harm you. There are those known as the Saritae- they wish for your world to be saved. In order for this to happen, you young ones must be trained. The ether must be closed. You are the first of a group that will seal the gate, and save this world.” There is silence for a moment as I study her face. “You are not surprised.”

    “Someone told me, years ago, that I would be called to do something important- something that would seem impossible. But with the right help, I could accomplish it. Besides…” she sighed. “I have nothing to lose. No friends. No family. No home.”

    “Is your world not something to lose?” Humans are the most confusing species. Perhaps your kind do not have as large of an understanding of the larger picture.

    She sighed. “Yeah, I guess… It’s just hard to imagine the entire world being destroyed. It’s just so… big.”

    “How is it that a human like you cannot imagine something? Your kind are made of imagination.”

“Some things are just too big to imagine.”

“That you must learn on your own,” I reply. “I cannot teach you how to imagine.”

“What exactly… are you teaching me?”

“How to fight. How to shift. How to be fluid and unpredictable.”

“Okay,” she shrugged. “When do we start?”

“As soon as you’re ready.”

“Then let’s go.”

“If you wish.”

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